Salome Zurabishvili, 66, was sworn in as Georgia’s fifth president for a six-year term on December 16 in an oath-taking ceremony in the eastern Georgian town of Telavi.
“I, the President of Georgia, before the God and the Nation, declare to observe the Constitution of Georgia, defend the independence, unity and indivisibility of the country, to perform faithfully the duties of the President, to take care for the security and welfare of the citizens of my country and for the revival and might of my nation and homeland,” Zurabishvili said, holding her hand on the Georgian constitution.
After the oath-taking, Zurabishvili delivered the inauguration speech in presence of invited guests, foreign dignitaries, government members and lawmakers from the ruling party and Georgian soldiers. President Giorgi Margvelashvili attended the ceremony as well.
The oath-taking ceremony marked entry into force of the new constitution, which completes the country’s transition from semi-presidential to parliamentary system of governance.
The new constitution will further reduce president’s executive powers, a process launched in the 2010 constitutional amendments and finalized in the 2017 constitutional changes.
This also marked the last time the head of state was elected through direct ballot. According to the new constitution, which entered into force upon Zurabishvili’s inauguration, the head of state will be elected by a 300-member Electoral College for a term of five years starting from 2024.
A day before the oath-taking ceremony, on December 15, President-elect Salome Zurabishvili laid a wreath at the memorial of fallen Georgian soldiers at Heroes’ Square in Tbilisi. She also visited the Mtatsminda Pantheon, a cemetery of public figures in Tbilisi.
The Presidential runoff was held on November 28. The ruling party-backed candidate Salome Zurabishvili obtained 59.52% of the votes, while her challenger – Grigol Vashadze of the United Opposition finished with 40.48% of the votes. Vashadze did not accept the election results, citing mass election fraud.
After taking the presidential oath in the historic castle of Telavi Salome Zurabishvili has been sworn in as the fifth and first ever female president of Georgia.
She will hold office for a six-year term.
In her oath, she promised to defend the Georgian constitution, independence and unity, provide for the security of the Georgian people and the prosperity of the entire country.
“I take responsibility to be the president of each citizen of Georgia. I appreciate those who did not vote for me. I am also aware some parties have a different position towards the recognition of my presidency. I will defend the freedom and rights of the citizens, I will be the guarantor of the rule of law. I will be sure to strengthen civil society and improve the political culture. Now, when I am the fifth president of Georgia, I am proud that we have managed to carry out the transfer process peacefully. One more democratic step has been made,” Salome Zurabishvili said at the ceremony which was attended by 150 high level guests from 55 countries.
She has also pledged to do all for Georgia's development and help the country achieve its major goals including Euro-Atlantic integration.
In her speech Salome Zurabishvili has emphasised that every former president has made their contribution to the advancement process of the country.
“Georgia is facing a great challenge now - Abkhazia and South Ossetia are occupied by Russia. There is the occupation line inside the country where our citizens are being kidnapped. This is not acceptable for a sovereign state. We are not going to tolerate this,” President Zurabishvili said.
A number of new regulations, including constitutional amendments, also came into force today.
The constitutional reform carried out in 2017 introduces a new model of government which is characteristic for a parliamentary republic, meaning that the next president will not be elected directly by the people. The new president after Zurabishvili will be elected for a five-year term by a special 300-member council starting in 2024.
President Salome Zurabishvili’s Inauguration Speech
After being sworn-in as Georgia’s fifth President at a ceremony held in the eastern Georgian town of Telavi, Salome Zurabishvili delivered her 25-minute inauguration speech.
Below is the official translation of Zurabishvili’s inauguration speech as provided by her office:
“Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Chairman of Parliament,
Your Holiness, Spiritual Leader of our Nation,
Excellencies and Distinguished guests,
My fellow Georgians, my fellow Abkhazian and Ossetian brothers,
My fellow compatriots living abroad, in particular those who came for this occasion and are here with us today.
I want to take this moment to welcome those who represent the descendants of our first political emigration. It is a powerful symbol that I have become President of Georgia as we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Georgia’s independence.
History’s circle has turned. A descendant of Georgia’s first emigration, forced into exile following the Soviet Red Army’s invasion has returned to this country to be sworn in as commander-in-chief.
As many times throughout its history, Georgia stands at the crossroads. Once again, we are facing great challenges. Telavi, the place we are gathered embodies this country’s history: its battles, its challenges and its achievements. The place I have chosen is somehow regarded as a historical “memory card” for the Georgian Nation. King Erekle fought for our country’s development and unity. He created the modern Georgian army and won numerous battles. He laid the groundwork for the creation of a modern European nation.
But it is also here in Telavi, that King Erekle’s plans to create a modern state, establish new standards and put our country on the path towards Europe, were shattered. It is here in Telavi that the country’s western progress was halted. Georgia’s opportunity to develop as an independent, united and strong country was blocked. Many factors were involved, including foreign interference.
Nevertheless, after restoring independence Georgia resumed its journey towards building a truly European state. We are now in a critical phase of this development.
Standing here in Telavi, our way forward is also clearly visible. Uniting the country, pacifying society, strengthening and establishing our place in Europe – these are our primary goals.
We wasted too many years in political divisions. As President, I will lead by example. I will demonstrate to my fellow citizens that national consensus is of utmost importance for Georgia’s development and unification.
It is not a political coincidence if I decided to take the oath of office in this city. I have decided to address the wider society from the very place where I failed to win a majority of votes in the election runoff.
I am thankful to everyone who trusted me with their vote in the elections.
I am grateful to the “Georgian Dream” party for supporting me as an independent presidential candidate. In doing so, it took a vital democratic step towards a Presidency that strives to stand above the fray of party politics.
I respect voters who did not cast their ballot for me. I am also aware that different parties have taken controversial positions, even regarding my recognition as President.
Regardless, I have a constitutional duty to be the President of all Georgians, to be the President of every citizen of Georgia from this day forward. Inclusiveness is of the main principles of democracy. The modern state is based on the premise that an elected President is duty-bound to serve each and every citizen.
I will do everything in my power to guarantee individual rights and freedoms. I will defend the rule of law. I will strive to strengthen civil society and further improve the country’s political culture.
But we should all work in the same direction. The independent media, the non-governmental sector, and every citizen can and should play a positive role in building a more united country.
Today, I have become the fifth President of Georgia. I am proud that the transition and transfer of power processes were managed in a peaceful and orderly fashion. In this regard, we have taken an additional step in this country’s democratic history.
I want to emphasize that all previous Presidents have made a contribution towards the creation of an independent and democratic Georgia:
One century ago, the leaders of the First Republic adopted a constitution which was regarded as modern and progressive for the time.
President Zviad Gamsakhurdia played the greatest role when he called for a referendum and proclaimed the act restoring Georgia’s independence from the Soviet Union.
Eduard Shevardnadze was the first to initiate the path towards Europe and the Euro-Atlantic space.
Mikheil Saakashvili, during the first stage of his presidency, laid the foundations of numerous significant reforms.
During the presidency of Giorgi Margvelashvili, new steps were taken towards strengthening the democratic process and reinforcing stability.
My promise is to take all necessary steps to make our country’s democratic development and its European future irreversible. Nothing can nor will hinder my determination to achieve these objectives.
The development of a modern state rests upon strong and lively regions. I made a defining decision in this regard. I choose to hold the presidential inauguration, not in the capital of Georgia, but in one of its regions, in the region of Kakheti.
A modern, European country requires the balanced development of the regions and the capital. Throughout our history in fact, Georgia’s provinces were its pillar and underpinned its strength. We should merge this historical experience with the modern European example.
The regions of Georgia have great potential. It is therefore important that we maximize regional opportunities for progress and open up new prospects.
My dream, a dream shared by all Georgians, is that as many people as possible, as many emigrants as possible, will return to their villages, to their abandoned homes.
This is an issue which entails great effort. It is premised on preserving ongoing relationships with those who live in those regions. Just as I am here today, with the people of Telavi, I will come to every region throughout my presidency. I will be with my people.
Georgian society is united around the issue of its European future. By electing me, the Georgian people yet again voted for the European path.
The EU association agreement and visa liberalization have opened up great opportunities for us, and we have solid support from our western friends and partners.
This process should be accelerated. The will of the Georgian people is expressed in the new Constitution: a forward path towards the European Union and NATO. Together with our strategic partners – the United States of America and European nations – I will take this process forward. I will make use of all my experience and contacts in international organizations and the European Union to achieve our common purpose.
We will consistently take active steps to reach those aims. We will deal with internal and external challenges honorably, accomplish reforms important to our country, and consolidate democratic institutions. Our goal is to reinforce our democratic credentials and become an increasingly mature democracy.
We will join Europe. But we must join Europe with our values, our identity and our culture.
We Georgians, with our ancient, rich and unique culture, based on Christianity, can make a contribution to the world. Georgian civilization can and should proudly take its place on the international stage.
The essence of Georgian identity is tolerance. Throughout centuries our tradition has been one of peaceful co-existence with religious and ethnic minorities. Georgia is uniquely known for never having experienced antisemitism. Because we live in a world where tolerance is increasingly challenged, we should strengthen this tradition of tolerance to inspire others. With this in mind, we should make Georgian culture and identity better known.
Culture is what a nation is based on. While our culture provides a strong foundation, it needs to be protected and attended to. Culture will be one of my main priorities. But culture without education is unthinkable. I therefore want to express my deepest respect to all teachers and educators. You are those who raise our children. In other words, you hold our future in your hands.
I will be the first woman president in the history of Georgia.
By electing me as President, we have demonstrated that Georgia is a progressive nation. 100 years ago, in the first elections of democratic Georgia in 1918, women enjoyed equal rights. 5 women were even elected as members of Parliament. These were exceptional achievements even by European standards.
Today, we have broken a new glass ceiling in Georgia’s longstanding history of women’s rights. We have taken another bold step – an example which still stands out as an exception in a world with only 11 sitting women Presidents. By taking this historical decision, we confirm that the role of women in Georgia is expanding. We demonstrate that equality is not a strange word.
Georgia is up against big challenges. Abkhazia and Tskhinvali* are occupied by Russia. The occupation line penetrates deeply into our country’s territory. Our citizens are abducted every day by a foreign power. This is unacceptable for any sovereign state. We will not tolerate this.
People living in these areas need more attention and security. We need to achieve a higher level of security. For this reason, we continue to closely cooperate with our partners and with the European Union’s Monitoring Mission. Cooperation with NATO needs to be increased and strengthened.
Reinforcing security in the Black Sea region is also one of our main priorities and will entail a higher degree of support from our western partners.
I will be actively involved in negotiations with our American and European partners to achieve our long-espoused goals as soon as possible.
Georgia’s defense capability depends on the professionalism of its armed forces, on their operational readiness and on modern equipment. Strong national unity is a political condition for all of the above.
I have the deepest admiration and full confidence in the armed forces of Georgia. I respect our soldiers and veterans. I want you to be sure that I will be fully involved in increasing the defense capabilities of our armed forces. Reinforcing the army and enhancing the defense of our country is my priority.
As Commander-in-chief, I condemn all recent attempts to divide the army on ideological and political grounds. They are totally unacceptable. Such actions damage our country and strengthen our enemy.
I will visit our soldiers in Afghanistan who fight side by side with our foreign partners. They are fighting against global challenges which present a threat to international, regional and national peace and security. Our soldiers fulfill their mission with dignity. Some have paid the heaviest price by giving their life in this battle.
Peace and stability are the main preconditions for the advancement of human society. A peaceful and stable Caucasus is necessary, not only for this region, but for the entire world. Georgia will have to strengthen its position in the Caucasus. We can regain our historical role in this region. We should shoulder our share of this collective responsibility.
As our neighbor in the Caucasus region, Russia has an obligation to fully recognize and implement international law and internationally recognized borders. That is the condition for it to be accepted as a full member of the international community and normalize relations in the region. That is the condition for it to establish equal and peaceful relations with its neighbors.
Georgia is located in a region that offers opportunities to implement interesting economic projects. We have to become the regional center of economic security and stability. To achieve this aim, it falls upon us to make our country even more attractive.
To implement this vision, we will need more initiative and innovation. This is the function and the obligation of our youth towards this country. This presents a positive prospect for the next generation. I am ready to support them fully by helping to attract foreign investment and promote the implementation of new ideas.
Keeping our society together entails solidarity.
Solidarity between generations has been a historical trait of this Nation. It should not be lost.
Social solidarity is a prerequisite of a healthy and stable society. Where there is mutual compassion, assistance, and support, there is stability. And with stability comes opportunities.
Solidarity means that we remember and support those who need to be cared for: vulnerable people, single mothers, people with disabilities.
I will stand with our refugees. I will stand with those families whose children have only heard about their roots from their parents. I know only too well the values that help these families survive – immense patience, steadfastness and hope. This very notion of hope is what binds us together as a society.
I do believe that Georgia will restore its territorial integrity. We have to remember that our fellow citizens are living in occupied territories. It is our duty to find a way forward and strive for reconciliation. We have a long shared history with both Abkhazians and Ossetians. We are relatives. We have families in common. We have no alternative but to find a way forward to help future generations in these regions. Today, as never before, the Abkhazian language and identity need protection.
Our country needs to stabilize and develop. We have strong human resources, economic potential, and a talented new generation. But we have to believe in ourselves and our abilities, and take responsibility for our future. I came to Georgia, I came back to Georgia, because I believed in my country. I believe in it now more than ever. It is our national duty to believe in Georgia’s future: an independent, strong, free, modern, tolerant and European country. That is the future of Georgia!
God Bless Georgia!”
Vectors of steadfast development of Turkmenistan are outlined at the first session of the People’s CouncilThursday, 27 September 2018 09:53
The first session of the People’s Council chaired by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov was held in the capital on the threshold of the 27th anniversary of independence. The agenda of National forum, which is remarkable event in life of the country, included the discussion of priority objectives of further development of Turkmen state and society.
Being the highest representative authority acting accordingly to the Constitution of Turkmenistan based on universal democratic principles and rich historical practice of the nation, in new epoch, the People’s Council embodies unbreakable tie of times and generations, commitment of our independent neutral state to primordial traditions of true people’s power, to the way of peace and creation.
In the morning, the President of Turkmenistan went to the Ruhiyet Palace from Oguzkhan Presidential Palace Complex.
The participants welcomed President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov on their feet with loud long-lasting applauses.
The head of the State went to the stage and warmly greeted numerous participants and guests of the forum, which is bright evidence of steadfast development of democratic processes in modern Turkmen society.
Addressing the participants, the Head of the State noted that as is known, the initiative about the establishment of representative people’ power authority – the Halk Maslahaty of Turkmenistan, has been proposed and unanimously approved at the session of the Council of elders held last year in Ahal velayat. Deputies of the Mejlis have discussed and adopted relative Constitutional Law.
Today, we have gathered for the first meeting of the People’s Council in order to discuss the most important subjects of the state and society life, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said.
Elected members of the People’s Council, heads of the government authorities, political parties and public organizations, deputies of the Mejlis, hyakims of the velayats, etraps and cities, ambassadors of our country to foreign states, honoured elders, representatives of all layers of the population as well as invited guests take part in current session, the Head of the State continued.
The culmination came and President of Turkmenistan, chairman of the People’s Council Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov announced the opening of the first session of the People’s Council. National anthem of Turkmenistan was played.
After the anthem song, having noted that the participants have already had an opportunity to study the agenda, the President expressed the interest if there are any proposals or remarks on the subjects and documents to be discussed. With unanimous support of the participants of the forum, the Head of the State announced about the adoption of the agenda of the session of the People’s Council.
After, the President of Turkmenistan made a big programme speech, which has been listened with great attention and met with long-lasting applauses.
After, the Head of the State suggested starting the discussion of the subjects of the agenda of national forum, having given the floor to the participants.
Tenant of Oraz Salyr Farming Association from Serkhas etrap of Ahal velayat Byashim Aydiyev, who was the first too speak, congratulated the President on coming 27th anniversary of the country.
It was highlighted that today, fundamental changes are taken in all branches of national economy including in agriculture, big progress is achieved in all directions. This session of the People’s Council will be written with golden letters to the chronicle of the country as it reviews the reforms in agricultural complex taking into account future perspective. In his speech, the President of Turkmenistan has also outlined coming objectives, made number of proposals aimed at the wealth of people together with summing up of the outcomes of completed work. We are confident that new success would be achieved after completion of these targets, the speaker said.
Turkmenistan has all opportunities for integrated development of agriculture, introduction of latest scientific developments, cultivation of various agricultural crops according to soil and climate conditions, use of land and water resources. It cause further improvement of social and living conditions of rural population.
Opening of the new farms, joint stock ventures and private companies gives wide opportunities for reformation of the agricultural production and producing good yields. In this context, B. Aydiyev on behalf of all farmers expressed the support of the proposal of the Head of the State on the foundation of special land agricultural fund for further improvement of efficiency of the industry with regards to transfer to market relations and on stimulation of agricultural producers as well as on leasing of the land plots from this fund for 99 years.
It was also highlighted that food abundance has been reached in the country and Turkmenistan has joined the number of grain exporting countries. Grain and cotton production is on high demand at foreign markets, which plays important role in development of national economy.
After, the floor was given to the Senior Specialist of the Institute of strategic and Sustainable Development of the Ministry of Finances and Economy Ayan Achylova. The spokesperson said that national economy has reached high levels. Our country keeps leading positions among the states of the world by the GDP growth rates.
Successful realization of social programmes, steadfast increment of the income of the population, salary wages, pensions, students scholarships, government allowances, creation of thousands new working places indicate significant improvement of social and living conditions of life of people and practical fulfilment of the SDGs. About 80 percent of the State budget is allocated for social sphere, which guarantees the provision of wealth of Turkmen citizens.
The Head of Turkmenistan carries out fundamental work for diversification of national economy, transfer to digital economy, reasonable use of natural resources of the country. Large facilities of regional and international significance are built and put into operation, which gives wide opportunities for improvement of work production and increment of export potential.
It was mentioned that from the first days of his elections as the Head of the State, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov outlined the formation of solid base in the country for socially oriented market economy. In the conditions when national economy is based on market relations, the necessity of their rational and efficient use appears. The growth of income and social and living conditions of the population give opportunity for introduction of payment for the services that our people use free.
A. Achylova said that Turkmen economists entirely support everything what was said at current session of the People’s Council about key directions of social and economic development of the country.
Policy for reformation of agricultural complex pursued by the Head of the State is aimed at fundamental improvement of food independence of the motherland on innovative base, growth of incomes, bringing of competitive national production to the world markets. Modern profile facilities are built, the activity of processing enterprises is arranged in this direction in all regions of the country.
Chairman of Sadulla Rozmetov Agricultural Joint Stock Venture Kamil Rozmetov from S. A. Niyazov, Dashoguz Velayat on behalf of agricultural personnel of the country cordially congratulated the Head of the State and all participants on the start of work of the People’s Council and coming 27th anniversary of independence.
It was highlighted that current national forum would enter the history as the event that predicted new beginnings for the sake of the future of the Motherland and our people.
Owing to the care of the Head of the State, all conditions are made in the country for fruitful work of people, generous yields received by the farmers, their wealthy life. Proposal on revision of the state purchase prices for wheat and cotton encouraged the farmers. Steadfast reformation of agricultural complex, deserving appreciation of work of the farmers would increase their enthusiasm and willing to work in the fields.
The farmers entirely support the proposal given by the Head of Turkmenistan that 70 percent of lands allocated by the state from new land fund would be used for the crops included into the state objective on contractual base while the excess of the yield and other agricultural crops cultivated on remaining land plots would be left for the farmers discretion.
After, the floor was given to tenant of Akgala Farmign Association from Halach etrap, Lebap Velayat Maral Gurbanova. Having cordially congratulated President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and all participants on the 27th anniversary of Turkmenistan Independence and start of work of the People’s Council, the spokesperson noted that huge work has been done in the country for relatively short historical period. From the first days of his activity on the highest government post, the Head of Turkmenistan pays great attention to development of the capital and velayats where integrated reforms are carried out. Modern living is built together with other different facilities.
The tenant highlighted that development of agricultural industry is under permanent care of Turkmen leader. It is indicated by the construction of facilities for production of mineral fertilizers. “Garabogazcarbamid” plant with output capacity of 1,155,000 tons of production in Balkan Velayat is one of the examples. These facilities will completely provide national agriculture with high quality mineral fertilizers as well as will allow Turkmenistan to be the exporter of chemical production. At the same time, new working places will be created with the opening of the facilities.
On behalf of the farmers, M. Gurbanova expressed entire support to the proposal of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov on openign of farms for growing and processing of fruits and vegetables, private livestock complexes, provision such facilties with land plots and granting of beneficial credits for procurement of modern machines and equipment.
The spokesperson said that it is great honour for her to speak from this high tribune not only on behalf of the farmers but also on behalf of all women of the country. This year, the Head of the State presented Turkmen people with excellent book “Worshiping of Mother – Worshiping of Saint”.
Resident of Serdar city, Balkan velayat retired Rejepmyrat Allanurov congratulated President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and people of the country on the first session of the People’s Council of Turkmenistan as well as on the 27th anniversary of independence on behalf of the representatives of elder generation participating in this forum.
R. Allanurov noted that convening of the People’s Council embodies unbreakable relation of times and generation, invariable commitment of our nations to advices of the ancestors and democratic fundamentals.
Continuing his speech, senior citizen noted that today, built and reconstructed medical centres and sanatoriums are at disposal of elder generation of Turkmenistan citizens. Health protection facilities, living and municipal, transport and communication spheres have various benefits for them. Pensions and state allowance are paid on time and there amounts are growing every year.
On behalf of elder generation, R. Allanuraov supported the proposals of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov for rational use of natural reserves especially about the regulation of the payment for gas, electricity, water and salt.
R. Allanurov highlighted that informative speech of the President of Turkmenistan caused huge inspiration of all participants of current session and the elders of the country unanimously support and approve important decision taken at the forum and the beginnings initiated by the head of the State aimed at further prosperity of the Motherland.
Deputy Head of Rovshen Private Enterprise from Mary YAgmyr Khanov was the next to make speech at the session. On behalf of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the businessman warmly congratulated President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and all participants of the forum with coming Independence Day and the People’s Council.
Having highlighted the importance of large-scale activity of the Head of the State, the spokesman noted that owing to integrated changes, private sector is developing at high rates together with all spheres of national economy.
It was mentioned that local businessmen do great work for expansion of the variety of produced goods, reaching of their competiveness at the world markets, delivery of agricultural equipment, development of new lands, construction of hothouses, development of livestock and poultry farming. Activity of Turkmen businessmen in construction, textile industry, education and tourism spheres, advertisement and publishing is a matter of great pride. They build the facilities not only in our country but in fraternal foreign sates as well demonstrating excellent traditions of national architecture.
Private sector makes significant contribution to provision of food abundance. It is pleasant to realize that production of wide spectrum of import substitutive goods has been arranged in the country.
Expressing full support of the entrepreneurs to the proposals given in the speech of the Head of the State, Ya. Khanov also noted that transit of the economy of Turkmenistan to market relations requires careful, rational and efficient use of national natural reserves.
Continuing the discussion of the subejects of the agenda of national forum, the floor was given to master of Balkan Shipyard of Turkmenbashy International Seaport Berdimammet Ashyrov who highlighted that owing to the care of the President, social and living level of people is improved, wide-scale economic projects and beginnings of international significance, which attracts the attention of the world community, are realized.
Huge work is carried out for development of transport and communication sphere, system of international transport and transit corridors in West – East and North – South directions is established. Modern air routes, railway and motor roads, maritime and river lines became the symbols of friendship and solidarity between the nations.
Having completed big projects of regional and continental importance in transport sector, our country confirmed its commitment to the principles of wide international cooperation. It is indicated by the railways Kazakhstan – Turkmenistan – Iran, Serhetabat – Turgundy, opening of the first part of Asian International railway corridor Kerky – Imamnazar – Akina as well as automobile and railway bridges Kerky – Kerychy and Turkmenabat – Farab across Amudarya River.
Being the representatives of maritime transport of the country, B. Ashyrov made special mention of large-scale work carried out by Turkmen leader for development of national commercial fleet and turning of Turkmenbashy International Seaport into one of the modern and largest port complexes in the region.
After, Deputy Commander of Border Guard division of the State Border Guard Service Eziz Charieyv made a speech.
On behalf of the personnel of national Armed Forces, the delegate of th forum congratulated President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Army General Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and all participants on the 27th anniversary of independence and start of work of the People’s Council.
The speaker focused on book of the President “Turkmenistan – the Heart of the Great Silk Road” which gives valuable historical information including on such spiritual and moral merits primordially inherent to our nation as courage, patriotism, bravery and dedication. The officer highlighted that our defenders of the Motherland keep faith to wise advices of the ancestors and are proud that they are entrusted to fulfil this responsible objective to stay on guard of the Motherland.
On behalf of Turkmen military personnel, E. Chariyev assured President of Turkmenistan, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Army General Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov that they would continue stay on guard protecting the peace and life of native land and put all efforts to represent National Army at the ceremonial parade on occasion of the Independence Day.
After, the floor was given to second grade student of Turkmen State Institute of Finances Durdymuhammet Orazgulieyv and third grade student of Turkemn Agricultural University Doydul Gujiyeva, which on behalf of young generation congratulated the Head of the State and participants of the session on the 27th anniversary of independence. The speakers highlighted that they are sincerely glad that they take part in the session of the People’s Council where important objectives of the state and society are discussed.
It was highlighted that formation of innovative system of national scientific and educational spheres, creation of the conditions for implementation of intellectual potential of youth are the most priority directions of the state policy of Turkmenistan. This the source of prosperity of Turkmen people, driving force of the state that defines the future of the generations.
The Concept of development of distant education, programme of teaching of foreign languages, introduction of advanced methods of teaching and computer technologies, international cooperation and close partnership relations with the leading foreign scientific and educational centres initiated by the President and successfully implemented outline new level in improvement of national education system. Significant success and acheivements in this field are recognized throughout the world.
Finishing the speech, the speakers assured that young generation would continue using the Head of the State and his grandfather Berdymuhamed Annayev as examples making deserving contribution to the prosperity of the country by excellent study, scientific achievements and hard work.
Summing up the discussion, the President of Turkmenistan expressed the gratitude to all who spoke on the subjects of the agenda and took active part in the work of the session. Having stated that all speakers supported the initiatives proposed at current national forum, the Head of the State also highlighted that all proposals and remarks would be reviewed.
Turkmen leader noted that various proposals have been highlighted in the speeches of the participants of the People’s Council. Similar proposals was coming from the residents of all velayats for the year. In this context, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov highlighted that the documents that were drafted and adopted on their basis entirely meet the goals of development of the state and society for short and long-term perspective.
Conclusions of the head of the State on the necessity of comprehensive modernization of agriculture by the improvement of the management, rational use of land and water resources, introduction of scientifically based crops rotation, advanced technologies and innovations received support in the speeches of the participants of the forum.
In this regard, the Head of the State expressed the confidence that implementation of relevant document adopted in this direction would give good results. Having noted the importance of this document, the President of Turkmenistan, Chairman of the People’s Council signed the Resolution on Further Improvement of Reforms in Agriculture.
Taking into account the approval of national forum, the President signed the Resolutions on Regulation of provision of the population of Turkmenistan with electricity, gas, drinking water and salt as well as on regulation of the utilities payment.
Addressing the participants of the session, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted that all organizational issues of the activity of the People’s Council are regulated in full compliance with Constitutional Law on the People’s Council of Turkmenistan. The Head of the State highlighted that work of national forum is based on the principles of democracy, transparency, justice, supremacy of law, priority of universal standards of international law, equal rights of individual and citizens under the law, respect of rights and freedoms of people, free discussion and taking of decisions and taking into account public opinion.
The President also informed that he signed relative documents on award of the citizens who distinguished in their work with the State awards and conferring of honoured titles. The award ceremony will take place on September 26. The awards will be presented by the Chairperson of the Mejlis and Deputy Chairmen of the Cabinet of Ministers based on the branches they supervise.
After, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted that next session of the People’s Council, which also would review priority issues of state and social life, would be held next year. Having suggested to hold it on September 25, 2019 in Ashgabat, the Head of the State signed relevant Resolution.
We would discuss number of important subjects related to the provision of conditions for further development of the country and prosperous life of people as well as would define the ways of successful fulfilment of adopted programmes, the President said.
After, the Head of the State spoke with the final speech to the participants of the forum, having highlighted that creative spirit of the nation aimed at the development of the country, confident move forward along the way of economic and social achievements is revealed clearly in modern historical age. It was comprehensively demonstrated at the first session of the People’s Council where the success of the country has been discussed.
We outlined the directions of Turkmenistan development for short and long-term perspective, which was reflected in programme documents adopted at current session. We ensured in the main thing during current representative forum that the nation intends to put all efforts, knowledge, work and abilities for successful realization of scientifically based programmes of social and economic development of country, Turkmen leader noted.
Realization of the plans would take Turkmenistan to the rank of developed states of the world with efficient economy based on innovative standards and with high level of life. Current session proved that we would be able to manage with honour these objectives and would gain success on the way to achievement of noble goals, the Head of the State emphasized.
Summing up the outcomes of national forum and stated that subjects of the agenda were highlighted, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov expressed sincere gratitude to the delegates of the People’s Council for active participation in their discussion.
Having addressed sincere congratulations on Turkmenistan Independence Day to all participants, the Head of the State wished everybody strong health and further success in their creative activity.
At this moment, the President of Turkmenistan announced the session of the People’s Council closed.
The state news agency of Turkmenistan
Integration of ethnic Azeris starts with language: challenges in economic integration, access to public services, media and political participation
The Constitution of Georgia stipulates that the state language of Georgia is Georgian. The status of the official language creates grounds for, on the one hand, the social isolation and exclusion from economic and political spheres of people who do not speak Georgian and, on the other hand, the banning on the use of a minority language in administrative domains.
79 year old Nargila Hamidova, a resident of Sadakhlo village of Marneuli district says that the linguistic barrier has made them feel isolated from Tbilisi and they have little interaction with the majority Georgian populations: “Our social and economic links are overwhelmingly to Azerbaijan. Trade is done in Azeri or Russian, rarely in Georgian. We feel alienated and isolated from the rest of the country that we reside in. Although we are the citizens of Georgia and said to have equal rights as citizens, the lack of the knowledge of the state language has formed us into secondary citizens, in fact”.
In Kvemo Kartli, Azeri is predominantly spoken. Even though the region is close to Tbilisi, ethnic Azeris maintain less economic and social ties with Georgia than they do with their kin state. Linguistic isolation makes these ties ever closer.
According to head of Borchali Public Union Zalimkhan Mammadli, if this situation continues, minorities risk soon being unable to communicate with the rest of the population and suffering harder economic and social marginalization. “The state should implement programs to maintain dialogue between ethnic Azeris and majority Georgians and further promote flexible Georgian language trainings in the regions densely populated by minorities to encourage their social and economic mobility, which will subsequently contribute to balanced socio-economic development throughout the country.”
The language of administrative proceedings shall be Georgian, in accordance with the applicable Law of General Administrative Code of Georgia. As all communication and correspondence are conducted in Georgian, ethnic Azeris who do not speak Georgian struggle to access public services. 24 year old Tajir Jalilov, a native of Iormughanlo village of Sagarejo district says: “Azeri language may be spoken when accessing public services in our village. However, no multilingual public services are officially provided. Because all official documentation and correspondence have to be submitted in Georgian, there is no guarantee that we can access those services in or mother tongue”.
As reported by the Community Center of Iormughanlo village, Azeri minorities need to acquire official documents, submit official complaints only in Georgian. Applications submitted in languages other than Georgian are not reviewed. An official of the community center said that if non-Georgian speaking citizens want their concerns represented at the community or higher level, they have to use translation services at their own expense. Legislation is only published in Georgian and not available in minority languages, added the official of the community center.
Ethnic Azeris of Georgia also face difficulties accessing information in the Georgian media because of the language barrier, the phenomenon which can only accentuate the isolation and alienation felt by these communities in the Georgian society. According to Musa Musayev, a 62 year old native of Sadakhlo village of Marneuli district, on account of the information vacuum, even sometimes they are becoming vulnerable group for hostile propaganda: “As little information from the Georgian media is available in languages understood by us, we often rely on foreign news sources for information, such as Azerbaijani or Turkish media. As a result of the information vacuum, the information is late to reach, sometimes even in a marred form. Some foreign, including Russian channels also accessible through satellite, but the programmes they broadcast are highly politicized and biased against Georgia.
The media is referred as the forth branch of a government and people may very well be affected by hostile media. Therefore, according to head of Borchali Public Union Zalimkhan Mammadli, the people need to be better and duly informed about the life of the state if they are to be expected to integrate into mainstream Georgian culture. Zalimkhan Mammadli says that considering the low level of knowledge of the state language and significant number of ethnic Azeri population living in Georgia, at least it is advisable to broadcast special media coverage with simple texts in easy Georgian read at a slower speed, along with ensuring media pluralism: “This would not only ensure to keep abreast of the ongoing developments, but also benefit the learning of the state language and encourage the non-Georgian population to practice understanding and speaking basic Georgian”
Regarding this issue, Alibala Asgarov, who heads the NGO Geyrat, mentions that it is important to encourage the production of programs with translated subtitles and dubbing in the minority languages.
Ethnic Azeris political participation and representation – a key to more effective integration – is disturbingly low. In the 150-member Georgian Parliament there are only 4 Azeri representatives. Very few government officials at higher levels are of Azeri origin. This reflects the general situation in Georgia, where all decision-making positions are held by ethnic Georgians. The predominantly Azeri populated Kvemo-Kartli region has never had an ethnic Azeri governor. Only the deputy governor is ethnic Azeri. Azeris are also significantly underrepresented in local government. In Marneuli the mayor, in Gardabanai, Dmanisi, Bolnisi the deputy mayor are Azeris. This is mainly due to the fact that the government relies on only ethnic Georgians run local affairs and partly because of the insufficient knowledge of Georgian by ethnic Azeris. According to the Report on the Situation of the Protection of the Human Rights and Freedoms in Georgia in 2017 released by the Public Defender of Georgia, ethnic Azeris tend to be better represented only in local councils at town and village level in the regions they densely populate.
Member of the Georgian parliament Azer Suleimanovi stresses that active involvement of ethnic Azeris in the political life of the country largely depends on the government’s efforts to encourage them to start working in the public service. According to Azer Suleimanovi inability to speak the state language was ethnic Azeris’ biggest problem in the 1990s and there are currently significant number of highly-educated ethnic Azerbaijanis with fluent Georgian, who are even well-suited to hold senior posts at the government and politics. “Lack of Georgian among the newer generation of ethnic Azeris is no more than an illusion intentionally contrived to put artificial barriers to ethnic Azeris. It is because of the current state program and the government policy that the ethnic Azeris are subjected to failure to hold civil service posts and excluded from political participation. We have always raised this issue before all levels of government, but not any action is taken.”
As reported by the Public Relations and Communications Department of the Administration of the President of Georgia, the government of Georgia has always emphasized high importance of ethnic minorities to Georgia’s political and social development: “Various projects, “Learn Georgian” that has been held for almost three years being one of them, are being implemented within the framework of Presidential Reserve Fund to support the integration of ethnic minorities, including ethnic Azerbaijanis, and encourage their participation in political and social life of Georgia.”
The opinion of interviewees and experts make it clear that ethnic Azerbaijanis of Georgia should have the right to an identity, and the right to participate in the social, economic and political life of Georgia. This implies, first of all, the need to promote the official language of Georgia. At the same time, the right of ethnic Azeris to use and develop their native language should not be undermined as it should be recognized as part of the linguistic and cultural heritage of Georgia. It is also undeniable proof that strong integration of ethnic minorities into the whole society of a country would prevent a possible outbreak of any interethnic tension and conflict.
This article was prepared within the framework of the project implemented by the Human Rights House Tbilisi and cofunded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and National Endowment for Democracy. The article does not express opinions of Human Rights House Tbilisi or the donors. The views expressed herein are those of the author only.
By Ramil Huseynov
The EU Delegation to Georgia has issued a statement on the Constitution of Georgia in agreement with the EU Heads of Mission in Georgia.
The Delegation of the European Union encourages all relevant political actors to work together further to complete the adoption of the new Constitution.
“From early this year, the European Union voiced its expectation that the introduction of extensive amendments to the Constitution of Georgia would strengthen democracy and the rule of law, based on wide-ranging and inclusive consultations. We welcomed the commitment of the Georgian Parliament to consult the Venice Commission and fully incorporate its recommendations.
The Delegation of the European Union concurs with the Venice Commission's opinion, released yesterday, which positively assesses the constitutional reform, stressing that it will complete the evolution towards a parliamentary system.
Nevertheless, we note that the Venice Commission regrets the postponement of the introduction of the proportional electoral system. It also formulates several specific recommendations concerning freedom of religion and in the area of the judiciary.
Regarding the process of political consultations between the parliamentary majority, opposition forces and other participants, the Delegation of the European Union regrets that a valuable opportunity has not been properly seized to build broader consensus around the amendments to the Constitution.
In light of the Venice Commission's opinion, we are confident that the parliamentary majority will keep to its commitment to allow electoral blocks and apply a three percent threshold for the 2020 parliamentary elections, as well as to abolish the bonus for the winning party, when fully introducing proportional parliamentary elections in 2024. The Delegation of the European Union encourages all relevant political actors to work together further to complete the adoption of the new Constitution”, says the statement.
The European Commission for Democracy through Law (the “Venice Commission”) published today its new draft opinion on the draft Constitution of Georgia as adopted in the second reading in June 2017, as well as on the letter submitted by the Georgian authorities to the Venice Commission on 20 September 2017, in which they committed themselves to consider new amendments.
The Venice Commission in its draft opinion reiterated its previous positive assessment of the draft Constitution, but once again underlined that any major constitutional reform must reach the widest possible consensus.
A major obstacle to reaching consensus, the report says, is the postponement to October 2024 of the entry into force of the proportional system for election of the Parliament. The Venice Commission called it “undoubtedly highly regrettable” as the passage to the proportional system is “the most important aspect of the reform”. “However, the commitment of the parliamentary majority in the letter of 20 September 2017 to consider allowing party blocks, together with the reduction of the election threshold to 3% at the 2020 elections is to be welcomed, since those amendments aim to alleviate the negative effects of the postponement.”
The new complex system for the distribution of unallocated mandates adopted in the second reading reduces the effects of the bonus for the winning party, but still very much favours the strongest party in the country. The bonus system is also a main obstacle to the acceptance of the Constitution by opposition parties and civil society, and the Venice Commission therefore strongly welcomes the commitment of the parliamentary majority to consider abandoning the bonus system altogether and adopting the full proportional distribution system as from 2024. “Such a system would favour pluralism in parliament and be fully in line with European standards. The Venice Commission expects that this step will not only be considered but immediately adopted,” the document says.
The Venice Commission has also welcomed, inter alia, the introduction of the requirement of a qualified majority of 2/3 of the votes of the Election Board in a presidential election; the lifetime appointment for the judges of the Supreme Court; the abolition of probationary periods for judges as from 31 December 2024; and the election of the Public Defender for a longer term (6 years instead of 5) by a qualified majority in parliament.
Additional recommendations provided by the Venice Commission include removing the prohibition of “creation of political parties on territorial grounds”, reconsidering the rules limiting the role of the Constitutional Court in reviewing electoral legislation; and modifying the process of the appointment of Supreme Court judges to better guarantee their independence.
GEORGIA - Revision of the Constitution - Statement by the Venice Commission President Gianni BUQUICCHIOSaturday, 02 September 2017 11:58
Strasbourg, Council of Europe – The revision of the Constitution of Georgia is a major reform meant to transform the current political system into a genuine parliamentary democracy.
In June this year, the Venice Commission issued a positive assessment of the draft revised Constitution, including the declared move towards the fully proportional system of the election of all the members of Parliament. Moreover, we specifically welcomed active co-operation and the commitment of the Georgian parliament not to adopt any amendments negatively assessed by the Venice Commission.
Therefore, the postponement of the introduction of the proportional system to 2024, as well as the repeated failure of the Georgian parties to reach consensus on the revised Constitution through negotiations is disappointing.
The meeting on 6 September 2017 in Strasbourg has been cancelled. I would like to stress that it is essentially up to the Georgian parties themselves to conduct further negotiations and the involvement of the Venice Commission is not required for this process. We encourage all the parties to come to a large consensus on the text through constructive dialogue.
We expect to receive shortly the revised draft of the Constitution from the Georgian authorities and will issue an opinion on it in one month, at the October plenary session (6-7 October in Venice). We encourage the Georgian parliament, before finally adopting the revised draft, to make changes in the light of this opinion and of the dialogue with all Georgian political parties.
President Margvelashvili Discusses Amendments to the Constitution about Defense and Security with Sir Garry JohnsonFriday, 16 June 2017 09:26
The meeting of the President of Georgia, H.E. Giorgi Margvelashvili and Sir Garry Johnson has been attended by the Secretary of the National Security Council of Georgia, Mr. Davit Rakviashvili.
At the meeting, the parties have discussed the current developments in the region, the existing security environment and the issues related to the state defense and security. The conversation has also touched upon the Communique, adopted as a part of Tbilisi Strategic Discussions, which Sir Garry Johnson has positively evaluated. As he has noted, the topics raised in the Communique are essentially correct and the constitutional project does not consider security and defense issues.
As Sir Garry Johnson has pointed out, the matters raised in the Communique need to be taken into consideration, when Georgia is working out how to move forward in this direction.
According to Mr. Rakviashvili, Sir Garry Johnson has been helping Georgia in refining the country’s security architecture for many years.
"At today’s meeting, it became clear that for a country like Georgia, it is vital the security environment, existing challenges, and goals, including the country’s aspiration towards the NATO integration, to be taken into account.
We have thoroughly discussed the Communique, adopted together with security experts, as a part of Tbilisi Strategic Discussions, on June 2”, - stated Mr. Rakviashvili.
The meeting has also been focused on ensuring the involvement of international experts in establishing the Georgian National Security System and possible cooperation in this direction. According to Mr. Rakviashvili, consideration of international experts’ views in the constitutional amendments is decisive.